Patient and Physician Perspectives On Engaging in Palliative and Healthcare Trials: A Qualitative Descriptive Study


Researchers are encountering increasing challenges in recruiting participants for palliative and healthcare research. This paper aims to understand challenges to and methods for engaging physicians and seriously ill patients and their caregivers in research studies.


Between October 2019 to July 2020, we conducted qualitative interviews with 25 patients, proxies, and caregivers participants who were eligible for a randomized controlled trial of home-based palliative care and 31 physicians from participating accountable care organizations. Using thematic analysis, we analyzed participants’ responses to identify concepts and key ideas within the text. From these initial concepts, core themes around barriers to research and preferred research recruitment approaches were generated.


Themes from patient and caregiver interviews included time constraints, privacy concerns, lack of research familiarity, disconnect with research institution, self-perceived health status, and concerns with study randomization. Physician-identified barriers focused on time constraints and study randomization. Patient and caregiver recommendations for study recruitment included in-person recruitment, recruitment at healthcare providers’ offices, recruitment via mail, additional study information, and frequent calls. Physician recommendations were related to placement of flyers at clinics, financial incentives, and formal events.


Findings demonstrated that although patients and caregivers prefer that their physicians recruit them for health-related research studies, physicians identified time constraints as a consistent barrier to research involvement.